Variations in fossil fuel emissions compared to variations in global energy consumption

This blog is a frequent user of DOE energy data–I’d like to thank them once again for their hard work, even if I am occasionally critical of their findings. (It’s appropriate to thank them as I get visitors from their site here.)

Usually I am taking data from their Energy Information Administration. Today I am going to compare the EIA’s figures for energy consumption with another branch of the DOE called CDIAC, the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. I will also compare these variations with World Bank figures for global growth in GDP later.

I got an additional 15 minutes of blogosphere fame last year when I pointed out that according to CDIAC we had emitted a third of all human emissions since 1998, the start of the ‘pause’ in the current warming period. I may have been the first to do so. I made the point then (and repeat it here) that although this doesn’t ‘disprove’ global warming (the globe has warmed and during this warming we have gone from about half a million cars to almost a billion, from about 500 coal-fired power plants to about 23,000–I’ll let you tell me about the growth in the numbers of airplanes, washing machines and data centers…), it is a fairly straightforward argument against high sensitivity of the atmosphere to increasing concentrations of CO2.

I noted previously that global energy consumption , while rising dramatically since 1980, has not risen uniformly (or monotonically, if you prefer). There have been years with very low growth and 4 years with an actual decline.

The same is true for CO2 emissions (CDIAC actually adds up fossil fuel emissions, gas flaring and cement production to get their totals.) Although our measurements of CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa are pretty much monotonic, our emissions have a lot more variability.

[This is something that leftist writer Alexander Cockburn noted before his death–that during the Great Depression, CO2 emissions fell but there was no change in the growth in CO2 concentrations. This led him to write an article critical of the climate consensus, for which he was promptly labeled a denier, senile and all around bad guy. Requiescat in pace, Mr. Cockburn.]

In 1980, CO2 emissions, flaring and cement production amounted to 5,315 metric tons of carbon. (To convert to CO2, multiply by 3.667. I don’t know why CDIAC reports in this fashion, but I will keep their figures without conversion.)

1980’s 5,315 metric tons of carbon was a decrease of 54 metric tons in 1979. And 1980 was not much of an exception. In 9 years between 1980 and 2010, emissions declined (see below). However, the increases were larger than the declines and in 2010 our emissions had increased to 9,167 metric tons of carbon. The nine years of decline were all in the 80’s and 90’s (including the famous 1998, when CO2 emissions declined by 8 million metric tons… go figure). The median figure was growth of 142 million metric tons.

In two years, 2003 and 2010, emissions increased by more than 400 metric tons. However, while 2010 showed corresponding growth in both energy consumption (which grew by 28 quads, the highest one-year growth in the time series) and GDP (which grew by $6 trillion, the second highest in the series), 2003 was very ordinary in terms of energy consumption (13 quads) and GDP growth ($4 trillion).

I think I’m going to try and expand on Mr. Cockburn’s observation about emissions not being closely linked to concentrations. But that’s another post…

Here’s the data.

Date World GDP GDP Growth Quads Growth in Quads Global CO2 Emissions Annual Change in CO2
31-Dec-80 11.16 2 283.1474 0 5315 <54>
31-Dec-81 11.45 0.5 280.9213 <3> 5152 <153>
31-Dec-82 11.35 0 280.5326 0.5 5113 <39>
31-Dec-83 11.6 0 284.3379 4 5094 <19>
31-Dec-84 12.04 0.5 299.6706 15 5280 186
31-Dec-85 12.66 0.5 308.0872 9 5439 159
31-Dec-86 14.98 2 315.773 7 5607 168
31-Dec-87 17.04 2 325.6042 10 5752 145
31-Dec-88 19.08 2 338.0998 13 5965 213
31-Dec-89 20.02 1 343.8671 6 6097 132
31-Dec-90 22.52 2 346.983 3 6127 30
31-Dec-91 23.64 1 348.0959 2 6217 90
31-Dec-92 25.31 2 347.7992 <1> 6164 <53>
31-Dec-93 25.74 0 342.6242 <5> 6162 <2>
31-Dec-94 27.69 2 356.0476 14 6266 104
31-Dec-95 30.64 3 364.511 8 6398 132
31-Dec-96 31.3 1 373.7722 9 6542 144
31-Dec-97 31.21 0 376.7177 3 6651 109
31-Dec-98 31.09 0 378.8662 2 6643 <8>
31-Dec-99 32.24 1 387.075 9 6610 <33>
31-Dec-00 33.28 1 398.276 11 6765 155
31-Dec-01 33.09 0 400.5864 2 6927 162
31-Dec-02 34.33 1 408.0402 8 6996 69
31-Dec-03 38.56 4 421.4558 13 7416 420
31-Dec-04 43.41 5 441.3221 20 7807 391
31-Dec-05 46.96 3 455.1495 14 8093 286
31-Dec-06 50.88 1 467.5628 12 8370 277
31-Dec-07 57.33 7 478.7327 11 8566 196
31-Dec-08 62.86 5 485.7181 7 8783 217
31-Dec-09 59.54 <3> 480.0048 <5> 8740 <43>
31-Dec-10 65.22 6 507.9768 28 9167 427
31-Dec-11 72.14 7 520.2721 12.5
31-Dec-12 73.51 1 528.7973 7.5
31-Dec-13 75.59 2 0

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s